Maine Governor Sued for Deleting Facebook Comments
Maine's governor Paul LePage may be in hot water after censoring people on his official Facebook page.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has filed a lawsuit against LePage on behalf of two women who say the governor deleted their comments on his Facebook page and blocked them from further commenting.
The ACLU says LePage uses his Facebook page, titled "Paul LePage, Maine's Governor," to perform government business, so blocking people who disagree with him "constitutes viewpoint discrimination and government censorship in violation of the U.S. and Maine constitutions."
The ACLU of Maine sent a letter to LePage on July 24 demanding he stop censoring users on his page and restore blocked users. They requested a written response within two weeks and never received one.
The governor's office did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment, but posted a statement about the matter on Facebook arguing that the page is "Paul LePage's official politician page -- not a government page."
"This page was started by volunteers in the governor's first campaign to support his candidacy," the statement reads. "After that time it became his official political page. This page has never been managed by taxpayer-funded state employees." The message goes on to say that the page "has always noted it is for those who support the governor."
The ACLU obviously disagrees. They argue that the page is, indeed, an official government page: the governor and his staff use the page to share information and press releases, the page has been "verified" and up until July 24 it was also linked to from the official Maine.gov website.
"Social media has quickly become a crucial tool for constituents to express their opinions to public officials," ACLU of Maine Attorney Meagan Sway said in a statement. "Free speech must be protected from government censorship on Facebook just as is it in any other public forum."
The suit comes after Facebook in March introduced a feature called Town Hall that helps people find and connect with their elected representatives and in June rolled out constituent badges to help elected officials find and connect with their constituents on the platform. Constituent badges are designed to help elected officials more easily identify comments from people who live in their district. If you opt to turn it on, a little badge will show up next to your name when you comment on content shared by your representatives.